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By Anush Martirosian and Astghik Bedevian
The Zharangutyun (Heritage) party said on Monday that it will not contest the forthcoming mayoral elections in Yerevan and effectively endorsed another major opposition force led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.

The decision came after Zharangutyun and Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) failed to agree terms for their would-be electoral alliance in last-minute talks held over the weekend.

The two opposition camps disagreed on should top their list of candidates in the May 31 elections of a municipal council and thus be their single candidate for the post of Yerevan mayor. The HAK nominated Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy, while Zharangutyun insisted initially that the list should be topped by Armen Martirosian, the young leader of its parliament faction.

Zharangutyun proposed on Saturday what it called a compromise deal whereby its top leader, former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian, will head the list and be followed by Ter-Petrosian. The HAK rejected the proposal.

In a written statement, Zharangutyun expressed regret about the failure of the talks and accused pro-HAK newspapers of spreading a “deluge of lies and disinformation” about the only party represented in Armenia’s parliament. Some of those papers have alleged that Hovannisian and his associates, who endorsed Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 presidential bid, cut a secret deal with the authorities.

The statement said at the same time that Zharangutyun’s and the HAK’s separate participation in the municipal polls would result in post-election unrest and that “under such conditions one of these two oppositional forces must give way.” It said Zharangutyun supporters should therefore cast their ballots “in favor of the opposition.”

The party also pledged to monitor the electoral process and wage an “all-out battle” against possible government attempts to falsify vote results. Unlike the HAK, Zharangutyun controls one of the nine seats in Armenia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) and its territorial divisions.

The HAK was quick to welcome the Zharangutyun move and present it as a restoration of opposition unity. “The fact that the opposition will be participating with a united front radically changes the political situation,” Arman Musinian, the spokesman for the 18-party alliance, told RFE/RL.

Musinian reiterated that the HAK views the polls as a “second round” of last year’s disputed presidential election and will use them for trying to effect leadership change in Armenia.

By contrast, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which praised Zharangutyun for not teaming up with the Ter-Petrosian-led alliance last week, was disappointed by the development. “I don’t welcome such posture,” Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman, told RFE/RL. “A force claiming to be in opposition should have participated [in the elections.] They could have joined forces with the HAK or participated separately.”

A total of six parties and one bloc (HAK) asked the CEC to put them on the ballot before the expiry of the election registration deadline on Sunday evening. Among them are the HHK’s three junior partners in the ruling coalition.

(Photolur photo: Raffi Hovannisian.)
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